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Using Sensory Toys to Help with Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation is defined as an emotional response that is poorly regulated and does not fall within the traditionally accepted range of emotional reaction. In other words, we can experience emotions that seem bigger than the situation. Emotional dysregulation is not just something that young children encounter but can be evident in adolescents and adults. When a person experiences emotional dysregulation, it is physiologically impossible to access the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that supports problem solving, rational thinking and creativity. When a person is dysregulated, they are unable to engage in effective communication and problem solving until they are back in a regulated state. Self-soothing is a helpful way to return to a regulated state and provide access to the prefrontal cortex. Below you will find resources that you can have in your home in order to help your child or teen (or yourself) regulate in a safe and effective way.

Fidget toys are a helpful resource as they are most often small and can be placed in bookbags, purses and cars for quick access to a sensory tool. Fidget toys can be purchased at any local store or online. Click here for examples online.

A weighted stuffed animal can provide increased support. The weighted feeling of a stuffed animal or blanket is thought to simulate deep pressure touch which calms the nervous system. You can find these plushies and blankets at department stores or online. Be sure to use an online search feature to assess the appropriate weight of the blanket or plushie based on your child’s size. You can also purchase weighted supports with scents like lavender which activates the olfactory component of self-soothing.

To create supports in your home, consider a sensory swing.These are often used in classrooms and occupational therapy for support. The smooth back and forth motion can help calm the child with a focus on the vestibular system. A sensory swing can be found online.

Another component of self-regulation and sensory support includes a proactive approach. When your child is in a calm, regulated state, work to give them language to express feeling. Consider purchasing games to help with emotion identification or using a developmentally appropriate feelings wheel to engage conversation about emotions. Once children learn to identify their emotions, they are able to appropriately implement helpful coping skills to regulate.

Games to help with emotion identification can be found online and in some speciality education stores.

If you would like to learn more about sensory techniques to assist with emotional regulation, please do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services at We offer complimentary free, 15-minute consultations.

Licensed Resident in Counseling


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